The boy sat alone in a crowded room.
It was an innocuous looking house, located in an innocuous looking street in an innocuous looking neighbourhood. If you were to pass through that neighbourhood, through that street, you’d not notice the house. One of the reasons why you might not notice it is that it was very similar to every other house on the street. It didn’t stand out. It had gate similar to almost every other gate in that neighbourhood; the pathway leading to the front door through the small garden was paved with grey stone tiles, as was the pathway to every other house in the neighbourhood, and like every other house, its walls were white, and the slanting roof had tiles painted with a rich shade of blue.
Each house had an attic – a small room with a part of the roof of the house just above it, with a tiny window through with you could have seen beyond the neighbourhood, if the dense foliage of the elm tree in front of the window hadn’t blocked most your view.
In winter, snow carpeted every garden and covered every roof, while in spring, every self-respecting housewife took pride in the flowers that bloomed in her garden. On the side of almost every house, creepers clung to the walls, and sprouted flowers in spring. In autumn, they became bare and hideous, clinging to the walls for dear life, seemingly sustaining life by sucking it out of the walls they clung to.
In fact, if you were to pass through this neighbourhood, searching for a particular house it was likely that you would have to ask around. It was not easy to locate a house in this neighbourhood.
It was in this innocuous looking house that the boy resided with is aunt and her husband – Mary and Joe Christensen.
His parents had died a long time ago.
“Eight years since we had this little rascal thrust upon us.” Mary unkindly reminded him often. He had been only 3 years old and remembered nothing about his parents. He only knew what they looked like from the photograph that Mary had placed by his bedside. They must have been good people, he assumed, and God calls good people to him before he calls the bad ones. God hadn’t called Mary to him yet, and Joe too was still around, he reasoned.
“How do you know he calls the good people to him before he calls the bad ones?” inquired one voice.
“How do you know there is a God?” asked another.
“God is in Heaven, and that’s where good people go when they go,” reasoned another.
“How do you know there isn’t one?”
“Shh… God is watching. Be careful about what you say”
“How do you know a God exits?”
The boy looked out the window, ignoring the voices, and smiled as he saw the setting sun smile at him through the leaves of the elm tree. He reached out, and stretching a defiant hand, tore a leaf away. He chucked victoriously and gave the tree a condescending smile. The voices must have halted their debating, because as he smiled, he couldn’t hear them.
He had never liked Joe and Mary. They were people whom he was related to, but he knew, in his heart, that they would never relate to him, and that he would never love them like he should.
They didn’t have any children, and he was convinced that it was because God had decided that they weren’t fit to have children. Once, his aunt had told him that when he grew up, everything would be his, and they wouldn’t get anything for taking care of him. He decided that he would make sure that she was proven right. In fact, he decided that when he got everything, he would hire someone to kill them, so that they would go to hell. Either that or he would kill them so he would get everything as soon as possible. People who killed and people who were killed went to hell. He would make sure he would go to heaven by not killing them himself; either that or he would set up a booby trap, so that it would be their fault if they walked into it. He would be with his father and mother, in heaven.
Joe wasn’t so bad; not as bad as Mary was. That was probably because Joe wasn’t home throughout the day; Mary stayed at home and fed him horrible food. She packed him two day old leftovers from supper for lunch. It tasted so bad that he sometimes threw it away. Sometimes, he even threw it up, if its taste lingered on longer than he could bear. Anything made by Mary had a bad taste. It was her fault.
When he came back, Mary expected him to sleep or sit around the house and help her. He didn’t like to sleep. He preferred to walk around the neighbourhood, from one house to the next, peeping in over neatly trimmed hedges, looking at people in their houses. Sometimes he used to jump over the gate, or squeeze through from under the hedge and look at people through the window. Some people didn’t like that. Those are the ones, he thought, who’re going to hell. They’re not nice people. They don’t share, he reasoned.
“Share their lives.”
“Why should they share their lives? “
“Because by sharing, they become nice, and go to heaven. Otherwise, they go to hell”
“Just because they don’t share with you, they’re going to hell? What sort of twisted logic is that?”
“What do you mean by twisted logic?”
“Are you sure there is a hell?”
“Are you sure there isn’t one?”
The boy smiled and looked away. The sun had set, and twilight remained.
Mary used to hit him sometimes, but he got used to it. She was going to hell, for sure. When she realised that it didn’t affect him anymore, she would tell Joe to hit him. Joe would hit him harder than Mary, but he would smile through the tears, and Joe would not hit him anymore. So he would be taken up into the empty attic, and locked up there. There was nothing in the attic; it was bare and he felt lonely there. He would shrink into a corner and think of the things he would do when he grew up. He never cried when he was alone, nothing hurt him enough to make him cry, except physical blows and he had no control over his reactions to physical pain, and crying when alone never served any purpose.
Initially, he was uncomfortable there. He was cold and lonely. He would cry out to Mary and to Joe to let him out, but they said he was being punished. He told them that they had no right to, and that God would punish them for it. God would create the circumstances where they would be killed and sent to hell. They wouldn’t reply to that. They must be afraid, he sniggered, and they’ll go to hell.
After a while, he began to feel comfortable there. The few hours, without the sight of their faces, without the sound of their voices, the few hours by himself to dream and think appealed to him and the place began to grow on him. Sometimes, he would look out the window and talk to himself. Sometimes he replied to himself, and soon voices spoke to him, words that only he could hear. They would give him ideas, would question him, and reason with him. They would sometimes agree with him, they would play mind games with him and he loved them. He lived within the walls of the attic; it was his world, where there were dozens of his own self and he realised that he was most comfortable there. If he were to allow anyone within these walls, he would allow his parents. It was sacred to him, and sometimes Mary came there to clean up, and he hated it because he couldn’t stop her. He would tell her to leave, and she would ignore him. The voices that lived within those walls spoke only to him, and never to her. She wasn’t worth their speech, while he was. She couldn’t hear them, and she would go to hell.
He began going up to the attic without being sent there. He would lock it from the inside, and rest against either the corner, or near the window. Sometimes he would lie sprawled on h
is power centre of the room. He had determined his power centre in the room: Each room had a power centre, and it was different for each person. It was where they should sit, and if they sat there, they would feel powerful and strong. They would become invincible as long as they sat there; if they sat there forever, they would become invincible forever. He determined his power centre for each room. When no one else was in the room, or watching (for their presence disturbed the process of location of the individual power centre), he would close his eyes and look up to search for a powerful yellow light shining down. He would walk towards it and rest under it. Then he would say a special individual prayer, which each person has to determine on his own and open his eyes and soak in all the energy.
“There’s no such thing as a power centre.”
“Is not, you’re just fooling yourself!”
“No he isn’t!”
“Yes he is!”
“How can you be sure you get the right power centre each time?”
“The one you get first is the right one.”
“I say so.”
“And who told you about it”
“God did; that’s how I came to know about it.”
“You just made it up. Why would God tell you?”
“Because he’s special!”
“Because I’m special”
“You’re just fooling yourself. You’re no different from anyone else”
“I know I am special. That’s what makes me different from anyone else. That’s why god had given me this special knowledge, and he will give me more, later.”
He looked away again, smiling to finish off the conversation. Sometimes the voices, when they doubted him, would irritate him. He always knew what’s right, and what’s best. Everything he did was right, and it could not be otherwise; because he was special.
Mary and Joe had given up on him. Every time they didn’t like something he did, they would tell him to go to the attic. It became his cave, and he was the king of his jungle, there. There he would give thought to how he would hunt his prey. He contemplated direct assault, and decided that they’d overpower him. He thought of hiring someone, but he didn’t have the money.
“So you’ll get money once you grow older”
“Yes! Then you can have them sent to hell!”
“I don’t think you should wait for so long. Kill them now, and send them to hell”
“You shouldn’t kill them yourself; otherwise you’ll go to hell too!”
“You should hire someone. How about Benny, who lives down the street?”
“Benny’s not a grown up. You’ll have to hire a grown up to kill a grown up.”
“Kill TWO grown ups!”
“Hire someone soon. The sooner you’re rid of them, the better.”
“You don’t have the money to hire someone. You don’t even have a dog to set upon them and eat their dirty hearts”
“Wouldn’t it be better to make slaves of them and make them work for you?”
“What good will that do? They won’t go to hell if they work for you!”
“Why should they go to hell? They’re of no use to you there.”
“They have to go to hell because they’re bad people. And bad people have to go to hell”
“And we will send them to hell.”
“We will get them killed or set a booby trap.”
“How do you set a booby trap?”
The boy had considered his options for days, and the voices had guided him well. Joe wasn’t so bad; it was Mary who would have to go. Joe would be under scrutiny for a while, and then his fate would be decided. Mary, he thought, the woman, must have perverted Joe’s mind. He would like to see how Joe behaves without Mary’s influence before deciding on him.
The boy looked out the window. Twilight had receded and there was a knock on the door. A voice called out to him to open the damn door.
“The door won’t go to hell,” thought the boy as he got up and undid the latch. He took a few steps back and waited for the door to open. To his right, was a board on which were affixed knives from the kitchen, held back by a string that would snap when the door opened, allowing the springs behind the board, all of which he found in the garage, to propel the board and the knives forward.